Showing posts with label Politics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Politics. Show all posts

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Spending Less on Israel's Independence Day Cellebrations

Fireworks may be the last holdout of government spending in independence day celebration, Israelis prefer government spending on more practical and realistic social programs

Israelis want local and state government to spend less on independence day celebrations. The days of soviet style military parades and folk dancing in public squares are long lost memories. Most Israelis today remember the patriotic showmanship as children or stories from old relatives. Israel is no longer the state of patriotic struggles and socialist idealism. The issue of independence day celebration is even rearing it's head in the political discussions. Just two days ago, Ha'Aretz, Israel's mainstream daily, reported on a comment made by Benyamin Netanyahu, the somewhat misunderstood prime minister. According to a short article, Netanyahu commented on this year's celebrations and reminisced on the military parades of his youth. Apparently the newspaper decided to spin the story as his desire to "bring back" military parades. Realistically, most Israelis take this kind of reporting as political jabs. The days of parading tanks and marching soldiers are faded memories. Yet these stories, truthful, honest or fictional, still make the headlines. It is a sign of changes in the Israeli press, a sign of not only ridicule in the face of out of touch government. While Netanyahu's perspective of Israel as a regional military and economic powerhouse fits well with optimism, his comments on showing power as a sign of strength seems to be taken as a joke. That is a change in attitude, maybe for the better. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Christian Pilgrims: Israel's "secret" tourists

Detail of Tiberius church painting
When the rockets fall and the buses blow up with tourists (S. Korean tourists, Sinai, February 2014, Al-Jazeera), there are still people who come to Israel. Called by a higher voice, believing in a purpose, something as fundamental as the terrorists believe in freedom or nationality. Christian pilgrims still come to Israel regardless of state security warnings and daily media buzz. From their perspective, especially the inside sources of the church and tourism, Israel is no more dangerous than any other place. Are church voices mistaken in their assessment of the dangers? Why would priests put their followers at harm's way? Do Christians still possess that fundamental spirit, which called for each believer to be a "soldier" and a believer? Or is there something beyond the media hype and political sniping (from the media, states, international organizations, political and military personalities)? Actually, with a little bi of reading, you notice a difference in opinion and belief in Christians' view of Israel and the conflict. Many Christians, both lay independents and organized groups (mostly independent churches), believe in total support of Israel. Some support Israel due to the Jewish state religion. Some due to the liberal and overall support of the state of Christians living in Israel. Beyond this, there is a different view of political and military issues in religious organizations and religious leaders. Unlike secular views, there is a long term perspective and a sense of belief in slow change. There is also belief in the right resolution long term. Whatever was meant to have happened will happen. More on the impact of religious tourism on Israel, not simply economically, in future blog posts.      

Friday, August 23, 2013

Should You Kill, Break Your Creed, or Start A War To Save A Life

Syrian gas attack reported by French newspaper Le Monde, August 22, 2013
Israelis are yacking and quacking about the killing all around us. In Syria the killing is beyond belief, yet there is very little action and even less criticism of other countries' silence. The Americans (in the form of president Obama) are criticized for not making good on their promise to act. Some countries are calling for support of rebels in the form of "No Fly Zone". This is what tipped the balance in Libya. Yet no real action from the Americans or the UN. In Israel the leadership is calling for careful and distant treatment of war activities in neighboring countries. Israel is still fearful of long term commitment like the eighteen years spent in Lebanon. Then the second Lebanon war which started out on basis of one cross border incursion. At this point in time, the Israeli street, especially here in Tel Aviv, does not have the appetite for another war.


Monday, August 5, 2013

Israel's Public Relation Battle With The Diaspora: A Loosing Proposition?

Taglit is great for the "Next Generation" / What about THIS ONE?
A unique organization called Taglit started thirteen years ago. The organization gave free trips to Israel to young Jewish people who were not in the Jewish community. This may sound a little strange, and initially it was. The idea was to expand the true knowledge of Israel among Jews who were not particularly interested in Israel. Focusing on the “next generation” was a tactic to sell the idea more easily and to implant a seed in the generation coming up no just in the Jewish community. The idea took a few years to take hold. Today, Taglit brings over 50,000 people a year to Israel. Also, initially mainly targeted at the US Jewish population, which has over 50% of Jews not associated with any Jewish community activity, the program is even more successful in the rest of the world. Particularly in small Jewish communities with a population who wants to be associated with a Jewish activity but simply does not have the means. In some Latin-American countries, up to 90% of the young Jewish population who qualify and want to make the Taglit trip, end up coming to Israel.  

Monday, July 15, 2013

Can Central Moderate Politics Save Israeli Frustration?

The current Israeli political coalition was elected on serving the “average Israeli”. A kind of answer to the extremist views of the right and left politics of Netanyahu's previous term. But with this central view, come mostly moderate politics. This seems to be the “modus operandi” of the current Lapid/Bennette coalition. The last few elections, Israelis were told to go extreme. Either right or left, the only solutions to the hard problems: Palestinians, economics, equality, and socialism versus capitalism was in strong single minded policies. So came the Netanyahu/Lieberman coalition. While they took extreme right wing policy direction, the really hard issues were not dealt with at all. Palestinian related issues were simply ignored (maybe that was the policy), the economy slowly spiraled downward (maybe the was the fault of international economic dependence), equality in many areas went out the window (an the trickle down theory with it), and the idea that capitalism can save the day no matter what, turned out not such a great idea (even the rich can lose their money and wisdom). So came Lapid and Bennette (together with Livni and Yechimovich) and offered the middle class what seemed to be the right things. The argument was, right wing politics takes care of the fringe population: the orthodox and the settlers. So the “new” middle ground will take care of the majority in the middle.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

100 Days to Lapid and Bennett Governing REVOLUTION!

Yesterday (Tuesday 25-June-13) was the 100th day anniversary of Yair Lapid's and Naftali Bennett's in office. Israeli media and government has taken a page from the American administration change: promise to make sweeping changes in the first 100 days in office. After all, if you have an agenda and you think you can change how government serves the citizens, you should be able to do something right away.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

In the Eye of the Arab Spring Uprising Storm

Editor: I have been off doing personal and work related projects the last few months. Yet, life here in Tel Aviv has been swirling like always. Hopefully I will invest time to keep up with life here.

      The last few weeks seem to move faster than ever. Arabs states bordering Israel are looking for big changes. The availability of the Internet and mobile phones make it impossible to shut down reports from the Arab street. Arab countries are made up of a young population, many with experience and connection to report to the world. Even under Arab dictatorial rule, the population enjoys freedom to use the Internet and mobile networks. Even in poor countries, good mobile phones with cameras and video cameras are common enough to make it easy to video clips for hungry TV networks. Tel Avivians tend to have a wait and see attitude when it comes to changes in the Arab world. We have seen wars between countries, economic development and talks of more freedom to the common citizen. If giving people cell phones and video cameras is more freedom, than Israelis are not impressed. If it gets down to real political and economic freedom, than we have something to be impressed. Maybe even something to be interested about. If real economic and political freedom comes to Egypt and Tunisia, cooperation, trade and even political bridges can give us something to talk about.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Do Israelis Care About Arab Relations? or International Opinion?

A run down Muslim mosque in Tiberius. Israelis do not care and associate enough with Arabs to care. A bad situation as a consequence of the Israeli-Palestinian-Arab wars raging ever since the state became independent in 1948 / image from Israel pikiwiki:

From US president Obama's latest speeches and meeting with Israeli prime minister to business people trading all the way to tourists: one question is asked about Israel:

Do Israelis care about the Arabs? or care about peace with the Palestinians? Do they care about what others think of Israel's image towards the Arabs? 

The short answer: Not always - Israelis are too isolated from Arabs to care much (this is a new development). They are also too disappointed from International media and even more from foreign leaders to care about their image. This is a new situation and it could change. Is this such a bad situation?  YES! ABSOLUTELY!  Israelis care about tsunami victims in Japan and earthquake victims in Haiti. So not caring about hungry Egyptians and their bread riots and Syrian dictatorship protest killing seems downright cruel. 


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Should Israel Send Aid to Arab Revolutionaries?

Protest poster against Quadaffi in recent days. From story, 22-Feb-11

Cuba and France were known in Africa for sending doctors during civil wars and revolutions. Once in a while they would also send soldiers to fight on one side or to stop massacres. As a whole, African revolutionaries would not turn down medical aid from outside countries. Israel has helped people in crisis all around the world. Earthquakes, tsunamis, famine and war are times where people simply need help. So Israelis go, no matter what happens between governments and politicians. If the Libyan and Bahrainian clashes turn into full blown civil wars, should Israel intervene? Most Israelis would say ABSOLUTELY YES. There are plenty of countries willing to help Arab revolutionaries. I am sure that once again France and certainly Italy will send medical aid to Libyans. In the Persian gulf states probably the Iranians will want to jump in. But India is also close by and has a good medical system with well trained doctors and nurses. Will Bahrain even allow Israeli doctors to land and treat their injured? I would like to think that the answer is YES.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Arab Uprisings All Around: Quiet Tension in Israeli Press

  Haaretz showing protests around the Arab world. Not exactly democracy yet, but quietly hoping for a change. From 18-Feb-2011  

Arabs are rioting now for over a month. It started with Tunisia. A country that seemed quiet and cultured. The Israelis who came from Tunisian descend are known for their quiet personality and hard work. Then came the Egyptians, hardly people of protest, at least not the violent kind. We still hear a bit of echoes from Iranian protests. But somehow the government's harsh suppression and communication isolation has made us forget. We hear protest in other places, like little lights turning on in the middle of the night. One should remember that Israel is the only democracy in our little corner of the world. From the Atlantic ocean to India. Far south as South Africa and who knows how far north, maybe Russia if one considers that government democratic. Israel is by far the only democracy here. So suddenly seeing countries who did not go through the adoption of democracy asking for rule by the people is refreshing. But not really. Israelis are cautious about celebrating democracy in Egypt, Syria or Jordan. Here, we better off not getting our hopes up. We have seen the rise of Gaddafi in Libya and Mubarak in Egypt. We have seen changes in economy and government in the gulf states. We have seen the war between Iran and Iraq, with very little change in how these countries are ruled and their acceptance of democratic processes by the people. So the press is quiet about our hopes, so is the government. Unlike Obama and Clinton in the press, Bibi and Lieberman are shy to advise Arabs what to do next.


Friday, November 5, 2010

Israel's Most Enduring Green Policy: The Green Line, Agriculture, Drip Irrigation

Fish ponds in lower Gililly. Northern Israel was first cultivated in the 1880s and started a 130 year tradition of turning Israel into a green space. From the air the effort has become Israel's ''green line'' / from Israel's PickiWiki Site

Last week I wrote about passive solar water heating [here]. Saving energy is a crucial and useful policy and affects every Israeli. A more environmental policy going back more than a century is greening the desert: planting forests, cultivating agriculture and cultivating urban green spaces. Israel's green line is one of the most important long term green activity. It is actually Israel's biggest contribution to the world and can affect more people in the surrounding states than any political and military activity. Politically the green line has become synonymous with Israel's 1948 borders. Today, the name is synonymous with the Palestinian struggle and Israel's security border. The name actually comes from aerial photos of Israel contrasted against background of the surrounding states. Essentially Israel looks green from the air. This is an amazing accomplishment considering the climate and history of the region. Since the first immigration of Jews to Israel in the 1880s, there has been an immense effort to plant forests, make living spaces green and cultivate agriculture. The effort has been a crucial economic engine in early years of the state when Israel became an agricultural economy. It is also been a symbol of care and nurturing of the land to millions of Jews around the world.


Saturday, May 1, 2010

Israel's Future: Trust and Doubt Among Israelis

Israelis act as if they are here forever, but sometimes speak as if just temporary visitors. Israeli survey point marker at the end of Tel Aviv's marina pier / © 2010

I don't understand how Israelis think about the future. It's not because I don't understand the words or ideas, it's just that there are so many different views, most conflicting. Some Israelis really believe that the state is not going to survive. If saddam hussein with chemical rockets from Iraq, the Palestinian suicide attack or Ahmadinejad's nuclear bombs don't succeed, eventually someone is going to bring down the state. These views are based on personal fears and media reports. On the hopeful side, Israelis simply point out where Israel is today and how people struggled for a long time to keep us safe. Attacks on Jews (essentially pre-Israel) started before the state was declared, wars with bigger armies and more determined leaders did not bring down the state, why would someone succeed now? Then there are the middle thinkers, Israelis who think that a really strong force came at us, an Iranian nuclear bomb for example, the Israeli army would retaliate. Something would remain after the smoked cleared. To outsiders this all seems grim, but what else can we do with daily news reports of someone making a speech to squash us?


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Frustration of Israeli Writers: Is Life HERE Really That Way?

An old American friend writes to me about Israeli writers.

"What is it with them? Are they all frustrated, angry, recluse that write just about frustration?"

This conversation started over 25 years ago with Amos Oz's Black Box. How can anyone even write with such moody perspective. Can't Israelis write happy novels and escape the reality or at least give American the feeling that something is good over there? Is it the case that life is such a frustrating experience, filled with tension, fear, anger... that it seeps quietly into literature (without us even knowing it?) Next comes: you (that's me) tell me that Israel is nothing like what portrayed in the press, but the literature is dark and gloomy. The mainstream press you can dismiss but the literature does not come from nothing! Is this a case of American and European publishers giving their readers what they want? not what is real? After all, publishers and book sellers need to sell books, if people around the world see Israel as a dangerous and frustrating place from the media perspective, sell them books written by frustrating gloomy writers, wallah!


Friday, March 12, 2010

All Politics is Local: Biden, Netanyahu and Tip O'Neil

Tip O'Neil's famous quote: "all politics is local" comes to mind this week. I am commenting on Joe Biden the US VP's uncomfortable position with regard to Jerusalem's city planning board approval of 1,600 new housing units in east Jerusalem [Haaretz/EN]. Joe Biden came to make nice with Netanyahu and the Israeli leaders. Since peace negotiations with the Palestinians is crawling at a snail's pace, everyone wants to get the credit for bringing the two sides together. US president Obama is busy with domestic issues, he does not seem to be giving the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations any attention. Hillery Clinton tried her hand but did not win the hearts or minds of either side. So Biden was sent to give the negotiations a kick start. Biden came to make sure the Israeli's are not aggravating the Palestinians by building outside the green line. This is in keeping with the last agreement between the sides to cool down the bickering. On Biden's second day in Jerusalem the city's building authority announced approval of 1,600 housing units in East Jerusalem and up to 50,000 units outside the green line going forward a decade from now [Haaretz article]. This seemed like a planned "slap in the face" of Biden. Not so say most Jerusalem residents, Biden is not part of the equation this time and neither are the Palestinians


Monday, October 5, 2009

Gilad Shalit's Plea for Freedom: Nervous, Quiet, Worried in Tel Aviv

Unless you have been living under a rock in Tel Aviv you definitely hear, see and FEEL the quiet nervous tension here. This quiet two minutes and forty second plea for freedom was streamed on TV and computer screens like a thunder bolt in mid-summer. The first few seconds after he finished was the most silent Tel Aviv has been in a long time. Than came the whispers and interpretations. What can you say to a prisoner held for four years? What can you tell the family? What should the government do? Tzipi Livni more than two years ago blurted out in anger something like "we are not going to bow down to the Palestinians on the count of one..." Immediately Olmert, Ashkenazi, Barak and everyone you can think of wanted to hit Livni on the head with a baseball bat (OK we don't have baseball here, we can find a bat somewhere.) But there was something to that blurb that is finally sinking in for Israelis and Palestinians: nobody wants to back down and look like a loser. The Israelis are not willing to let murderers out just to be treated like heroes in Gaza. The Palestinians are not willing to settle for not getting everyone out of prison, specially their big heroes. Shalit sits in a hole just beyond our reach. To most at first impression he "looked good". But the way he looked did not calm the nervousness. Just seeing this face reading quietly a simple speech [video/transcript] made everyone's hair stand in the back of his neck.

I think you know things are bad when nobody talks about it. The old white elephant in the middle of the room, the king walking naked in the middle of the street, Shalit still "there" four years later. The situation indicates two big shifts in attitude in Tel Aviv:

1) Israelis are no longer willing to trade Palestinians at any price. If we "JUST" get Shalit without a complete stop to terrorism "they" are not going to get the "very bad ones". (Israelis are not willing to release mass murderers which for the Palestinians are heros)

2) Israelis can be silent and tolerant for a long long time. We can take stress, we can take Iranian presidents on TV, we can take Nasrala and Haniya on TV. We can take silence from Ashkenazi and Bibi... few remember 8 years of shelling from Gaza, Israelis remember.


Friday, October 2, 2009

Polished Slick Political Speech in Tel Aviv

Tel Avivians recently upgraded their image of slick politically correct speakers. Not by international standards, but certainly by Israeli standards. Israelis for a long time had an image of rough and undiplomatic. Today in fact, Tel Aviv behaves much more like a modern European city than an Israeli Kibbutz from the 1950's. The change from brash, brutally honest, "I don't care what you think of me" to civility is something foreigners notice right away. Specially visitors who have not been here in a decade or two and remember the days when Israelis were on top of the world. In general, Israelis are not particularly interested in politics. In everyday life, you do not hear much political talk, there are just too many other issues to worry about. If you are interested in politics try a few people and see who bites. Tel Avivians are not worried about what they say, so they will tell you what they think. If you need to decode what they say here are a few things I heard recently. Here is a short decode table:

  • I do not understand politics: I am tired of the empty promises before elections and the excuses after.
  • Politics is in my blood: My great uncle was a low level beurocrat in the histadrut (national labor union, at one time representing most workers in Israel.)
  • I follow politics religiously: 1) I watch the news every evening. 2) I hear all kind of things but believe very little until I see real action.
  • Politics is my religion: I vote in most elections and I do not practice any religion regularly.
  • I don't want to hear about politics: 1) I really don't care what politicians say and do. 2) Bring it on, I love talking (arguing) politics.
  • I am not that interested in politics: Politics are a waste of time but if you got an opinion I am sure we can argue about something.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Israel's Foreign Worker Dilemma: Economic Downturn Debate

The number of unemployed in Israel is flat or slightly down at 7.6% (1st quarter 2009) [228,000 out of 3.005 million workers, Israel Bureau of Statistics, 27/5/09]. Unemployed workers now outnumber the number of foreign workers. This puts pressure on the state to reduce the number of foreign workers. But some of the foreign worker are doing work Israeli natives are not willing to do. Still, out of approximately 200,000 registered foreign workers there must be some who can be replaced by Israelis. There are estimated 200,000 more unregistered illegal workers (some with expired permits some smuggled through Egypt and Jordan). The thinking now, while the economy is not creating enough jobs, first turns to these workers. The reduction of foreign workers in Israel started in mid-2008. The Olmert administration did not pay much attention to the details: what work needs to be done and by whom. They just cared about reducing the number of foreign workers, and as quickly as possible. A policy was formulated to reduce the foreign workers by half in one year (mid 2009) with focus on restaurant and services (i.e. cleaning), and agriculture (i.e. pickers and packers). The idea was to give Israelis a chance to take the jobs which will open up once foreign workers left. It has not worked very well, in some sectors it has not worked at all. The jobs in home care of old people, now done by young women from the Philippines and Thailand is attracting so few Israelis, training programs are no longer running. In agriculture the problem is even worst, farmers are already warning that some crops will simply disappear from store shelves. Some cash crops will not be exported any more. Even if Israeli workers start processing fruits and vegetables the cost of manufacturing will go up. In today's economic climate farmers will not be profitable or will lose their competitive pricing. This is the price we pay in hard economic times, some products simply are not viable. This means some workers are not needed.


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Israel Radio: Gulf States Investing in Israel: Farmer's Loss is Arab's Gain?

Agriculture of past times; ארכיון קיבוץ עין השופט Kibbutz Ein Ha'shofet archives / CC2.5 / taken from 1939 to 1950 / link:

A report on Israel's radio this morning mentioned an interesting story. Gulf states investors are buying land in northern Israel. The sellers are Israeli farmers in economic dire straights and apparently the investors are individuals or organizations based in the gulf states (Kuwait, UAE, Dubai, Bahrain). Jewish agricultural land ownership in northern Israel go back more than fifty years, in some cases even a hundred years. These are private lands bought by European Jews just before and after the state was founded. The land was bought from Arab individuals for agricultural use and at the time (1900's to 1940's) the Zionist intention was to build communities based on farming. The idea of Jews farming was revolutionary a hundred years ago. The idea of farming in Israel was a European dream. In the diaspora Jews were not allowed to own land and eventually turned into urban dwellers. But all of that is old history.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Israel's Politicians and Bureaucrats

Politicians attract media like moths to light especially in Israel. But here the bureaucrats really run things. Bickering between the two fills newspaper pages. This is what Israelis really want to know and in all its gory details. Political aids moving to administrative positions make good stories. Bureaucrats holding back a big project like the new rail line to Jerusalem or the electric coal plant two years late in construction are even better. School budgets and the shameful state of affairs with the teachers are always good stories. Water issues and the 10 years of bickering over a desalination plant, which nobody really wants in their back yard (remember the American NIMBY movement?) [see existing plant] Israel's politicians are no different than most democratically elected officials, they boast and promise great things before elections. What happens once politicians are elected and they face the bureaucrats running the government? Well, we call it bureaucracy. Politicians complain, say that things could be better, that decisions and actions have to be made more quickly, that process (American investment lawyers call it 'due diligence') always hold back good plans. The bureaucrats are not phased by politician's promises without meaning, budgets and trade-offs. Following laws and regulations, assuring proper process, making sure the public's interest is taken care of that makes them happy.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Why is the World Silent? (Iran's supression of freedom)

Unrest Continues After Iranian Presidential Elections    

The United States, England, France, Germany and most western developed countries act like they have no interest in protecting freedom against the worst tyranny on earth. Freedom is of no interest to the so called free world. The United Nations just sites quietly, not even debating the issues on TV. Who cared when the Nazis killed innocent Jews and the weak minorities of Europe? NO ONE in the free world! These are the same countries that don't give a damn that thousands of freedom fighters are being slaughtered by the 21st century version of the Nazi party in Iran, cloaked under the guise of religious purity. (The NAZI party also called "National Socialist German Workers' Party" gussied their intentions behind socialism for workers).

Only Israel has called on the United Nations to halt this slaughter and show support for freedom. Benyamin Netanyahu said on what is going on in Iran:

"I cannot tell you how this thing will end up. I think something very deep and very fundamental is going on... There is an expression of the deep desire amid the people of Iran for freedom. ... This is what is going on."

While president Barack Obama waited a week and more to "toughen up" on Iran (until June 23rd). It's time for the free world to stand up for what they say they believe in. The leaders of these countries should hang their heads in shame. Perhaps they should all resign and go live with the mullahs.

We should all fight for freedom
Cast off your chains
sam-d-man @ TLV tomorrow blog